Thursday, February 3, 2011

Restaurant Week

I started off the week planning on taking full advantage of restaurant week. The two-week span known as restaurant week allows diners to experience some new restaurants while giving restaurants exposure to some new clientele. New York's restaurant week offers $24.07 lunches and $35 dinners. Although not all restaurants participate in restaurant week, you could find tons of restaurants who take advantage.

Gramercy Tavern is a restaurant that doesn't participate in restaurant week. They have a pretty consistent crowd streaming in and out, so I think its safe to say that they don't need the marketing of restaurant week. I've wanted to go to Gramercy Tavern for awhile not only because of its reputation, but because its one of the restaurants that started Union Square Hospitality Group--the restaurant group that I work for. So Nadine and I decided to skip restaurant week and head to GT.

I knew celebrity chef Tom Colicchio was once affiliated with Gramercy Tavern, but after some research; I found out that he co-founded the restaurant and served as the opening Executive Chef in 1994. Tom Colicchio cut ties with GT and started his own chain of restaurants, leaving Michael Anthony in charge of the kitchen.

Michael Anthony serves refined, contemporary American cuisine; which offers a renewal to the classic American tavern. Chef Anthony's food is paired with Danny Meyer's hospitality. All of Danny Meyer's restaurants are known for warm, friendly hospitality and exceptional service. Personality mixed with knowledge and efficiency allow unparalleled service.

The decor of the space is warm and inviting. We sat at the bar in the tavern, but the restaurant also has a more formal dining room. Gramercy Tavern has an awesome beverage program from elaborate cocktails to their extensive beer and wine list. If you don't find anything on the list you'd like (impossible)--just tell your friendly bartenders what you like and they will create a drink for you. Nadine started with the Bittersweet cocktail (Plymouth Gin, Cranberries, Lime, Fever Tree Tonic) while I opted to go for the Fall Classic (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Apple Cider, Apple Brandy, and Thyme).

For appetizers, Nadine got the Sunchoke, Duck, & Pear Salad with a Pecan Viniagrette. Her salad was good, but I liked my Calamari and Carrot Salad more. Shredded carrots with fresh calamari tossed in a preserved lemon vinaigrette and topped with pine nuts turned out to be a great start to a great meal.

Our next course was sent out complimentary. The Smoked Trout with Cippollini Puree and Pickled Onions was an awesome dish, but the Smoked Arctic Char with Sunchokes and Hazelnuts my favorite of the two. Both dishes were great examples of Michael Anthony's simple, yet refined approach to food. Gramercy Tavern's use of local and seasonal ingredients combined with the expertise of the kitchen shines through the food.

We then put our trust in the bartender to make us both concoctions based on what we like. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly what he make for us; but both proved to be awesome. My drink was a variation of my first drink, the Fall Classic. Nadine really loved her mixture of bourbon, honey, mint, ginger beer, and bitters (I think thats it?).

Nadine's last savory course was the Sea Bass. This dish was prepared with Swiss Chard, pine nuts, capers, and a sweet onion sauce. I only got one bite before Nadine's plate was empty. The Sea Bass was delicious, but my pork dish was exactly what I wanted. I got Smoked Pork Shoulder with sweet potatoes, salsify, and bacon broth. It was the perfect dish for a snowy winter day. Beautifully smoked and tender pork shoulder, sweet potatoes, and salsify layed in a delectable bacon broth. This was a homey dish perfect for these cold winter months.

Somehow we managed to eat dessert. We only planned on getting one dessert being the twice recommended Butterscotch Bread Pudding with Pear Sorbet, but they also brought out the German Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream. Both desserts were decadent and delicious, but I found myself spooning more of the chocolate cake.

Just when we thought we were tapped out, the couple next to us bought us a drink. I decided to get the margarita as the guy buying was raving about them. The margarita was pretty good and got me ready for my next stop, Dos Caminos.

Gramercy Tavern proved to be not only one of Meyer's finest, but one of New York City's finest.

Still full from an incredible lunch, I had plans to meet up with two friends at Dos Caminos in Soho. Dos Caminos is a mexican restaurant within the BR Guest restaurant group. I believe there are 4 locations in NYC and two outside: Florida and Las Vegas. Getting there a few minutes more Dan and Sue, I sat at the uncomfortable bar and looked over the menu. We were seated in the back area soon after where we immediately ordered margaritas and guac. Despite different various, we went with the classic "El Camino" margarita. This margarita used Milagro Blanco Tequila, Triple Sec, and fresh lime juice. The margaritas were tastey and were going down smooth. Our guacamole for 4 proved to be more than we could eat, but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Not being able to complete another multiple course meal, I decided to skip the restaurant week option and order a la carte. I got the Carnitas Tacos which is slow roasted pork, green chili salsa, and aged cotija cheese. The tacos came with Mexican rice and refried beans.

The tacos came in taco holders, which Sue loved! This allowed a nice presentation and an easy grab. The tacos were good, but not good enough to get again. Sue also got the Carnitas Tacos while Dan got the restaurant week option. I thought everything had good flavor, but wasn't impressed by anything. The first two courses were good, but the dessert failed.

We continued drinking and chatting it up. I tried the Calle Fresca (Cazadores Blanco, Mango, Cucumber, Ancho Salt Rim) which was unlike anything I ever tried before. It wasn't my favorite, but it was interesting to try. The ancho rim could be a nice touch, but I'm not too sure about combining it with mango.

Our server was pretty good, although she was rocking a beanie. I know its cold, but I thought that was unprofessional. She was cool though, so we won't hold that against her. She hooked us up with Prickly Pear shots before she left for the night.

I've always thought that a server should stay with their table until they leave. I understand tables sometimes camp out and stay longer; but I think its important to keep that connection. I don't hold this against her, I'm just saying I'd do things different.

A few Pacificos and shots of tequila later, we headed out. I had a great night at Dos Caminos. When you're in good company, the food always taste better! I'd probably go back if a friend wanted to go, but I would prefer trying another Mexican joint!

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